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A Pick Six of top rookies midway through season

By Richard Rosenblatt

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 10 2010 2:26 p.m. MST

It sure looks like a few teams in desperate need made some wise draft choices.

The NFL rookie class of 2010 has been dazzling in so many ways — running, passing, catching, blocking, sacking, but not place-kicking — that there's just too many players to single out in a little ol' Pick Six. It's time for an audible.

Six teams will be praised for excellent performances by eight rookies through the first half of the season, after the Lions and Patriots managed to pull off a doozy draft double.

With apologies to standout rookies like Bengals wide receiver Jordan Shipley, Eagles safety Nate Allen, Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi and Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, here's our Pick Six:

—Ndamukong Suh, DL, and Jahvid Best, RB, Lions: Who could argue with these first-rounders? Despite just two wins, the Lions are on the rise thanks to the already fearsome 6-foot-3, 307-pound Suh (No. 2 overall) and the shifty, speedy Best (No. 30). Suh is a relentless rusher with 6½ sacks, an interception and a 17-yard TD off a fumble recovery to seal a 37-25 win over the Redskins in Week 8. Turns out, the All-American from Nebraska also is the emergency kicker, though he missed what turned out to be a crucial extra point attempt in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Jets in Week 9. Best, meanwhile, is a scoring threat whenever he's on the field. The running back from California has more than 700 yards rushing and receiving combined, with five TDs.

— Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: Stepped right in to starter's role and, while not tearing up the league, is a big reason why these guys are co-leaders in the NFC West — their four wins are one more than the past two years combined. The No. 1 overall pick out of Oklahoma has thrown for 1,674 yards, completed nearly 59 percent of his passes, and has 11 TDs and eight interceptions. Despite being sacked 17 times, he's gotten up every time.

— Dez Bryant, WR/PR, Cowboys: A lone bright light in a dark season, Bryant leads all rookies in scoring with six TDs, four catching passes and two returning punts, including a 93-yarder in a loss to the Giants in Week 7. The 24th pick in the draft out of Oklahoma State has 38 catches for 435 yards, and he's averaging 14.4 yards per punt return.

— Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers: Josh Freeman needs players to throw to, and this fourth-round pick from Syracuse is his main target. Behind Bryant, he's the second-leading rookie wideout with 36 catches for 559 yards and five TDs, not to mention clutch grabs to help Freeman and the Bucs pull out several wins in the final minutes.

— Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers: The 6-5, 304-pounder from Florida could be the Steelers' best rookie since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. He's probably the team's best offensive lineman — he makes all the blocking calls for the line — and may follow a long line of star Steelers centers: Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson. Pouncey caught on so fast, previous starter Justin Hartwig was cut in training camp.

— Aaron Hernandez, TE, and Rob Gronkowski, TE; Patriots: First it was Gronkowski (a second-rounder from Arizona) making key catches, and lately it's been Hernandez (a fourth-rounder from Florida). The two have combined for 48 catches for 584 yards and five TDs (Hernandez has 34 catches for 436 yards and two TDs) in becoming dependable targets for Tom Brady.

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